Blasphemy is defined by Merriam Webster dictionary as “the act of insulting or showing contempt or lack of reverence for God.” It is secondarily defined as “an irreverence toward something considered sacred or inviolable.”
God, of course, isn’t defined the same by everyone. Muslims consider Allah to be God, while Christians and even the Jews consider the God of the Bible, to be the one true God. In America, how a person defines God doesn’t really matter, as each person is free to make that choice for themselves without fear of punishment.
Beginning in the 20th century, American started doing away with blasphemy laws altogether, taking them off the books. Consequently, today, blasphemy laws are a non-issue in the US.
In many other countries, this is a very different story. For example, in some countries, believing the God of the Bible to be the one true God and letting that be known to others — or even being suspected of thinking that — can result in a blasphemy charge.
While it sounds innocent enough, in other parts of the world, the charge of blasphemy is not only a serious offense that can result in prison time, it can even be punishable by death.
How Blasphemy Laws Hurt Christians
A recent report by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) found five countries to be the worst with regard to blasphemy laws, which are Iran, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Qatar.
All of the countries they identified use their blasphemy laws as a way to protect Islam and enforce it as the primary religion. A press release issued by the organization stated: “In all five of the worst-scoring countries, the blasphemy laws aim to protect the state religion of Islam in a way impermissibly discriminates among different groups.”
A Christian father in Pakistan was charged with blasphemy and subsequently arrested. This charge came about because the man simply asked a customer to pay for a bike that he had previously repaired. The man who refused to pay for the service was Islam. He accused the bike repairman, who happened to be a Christian, of insulting Islam.
Another incident, which turned out much worse for the Christians involved, occurred in 2014. In this case, a couple was accused of blasphemy for desecrating the Quran (the holy book of Islam). The claim of desecration ended up being false, but that didn’t matter to the mob-like crowd who burned the couple to death before the charges were discovered to be false.
These stories are just two of the thousands of examples of how Christians have been persecuted in countries wherein they live as a minority culture.
In fact, in Iran, which is listed as one of the worst countries for such persecution, officials are becoming particularly concerned about the increased number of conversions to Christianity, especially among the younger generation. This has resulted in Islamic seminary officials pleading with the government to “stop the spread” of the Christian faith, presumably through an increased focus on enforcing blasphemy laws in addition to other violent means.
Are Blasphemy Laws Ever a Good Idea?
Most blasphemy laws are ambiguously worded, meaning they can be twisted to justify imprisonment or the death of people groups almost at the will of the government in charge.
Furthermore, the laws usually fail to specify intent within the wording, which of course means that a person could be charged with blasphemy even if they didn’t intend to insult. Therefore, overall, blasphemy laws aren’t a great idea. In fact, USCIRF Chairman Daniel Mark said the following about blasphemy laws and how they should be viewed by a peaceful society:
“Advocates for blasphemy laws may argue that they are needed in order to protect religious freedom, but these laws do no such thing. Blasphemy laws are wrong in principle, and they often invite abuse and lead to assaults, murders and mob attacks. Wherever they exist, they should be repealed.”
From a modern, Western perspective, it’s pretty hard to disagree with any of this. While the laws might seem on the surface to serve a purpose, they only provide a legal way for those who seek to inflict pain and persecution on others to do so without repercussion. As such, they have no place in today’s society.
~ 1776 Christian